Host regulation of Chlamydia trachomatis TARP by signal peptide proteolysis

Summer 2017

Blake Sanders : Molecular and Cell Biology

Mentor: Deborah Dean

Chlamydia trachomatis is an intracellular pathogen that infects approximately 150-300 million people worldwide, where it is estimated that 9 million people have become blind as a result of an infection by this pathogen. Such statistics show the necessity for basic research into the fundamental processes of infection by this pathogen in order to pave the way for new treatment options to reduce this staggering disease burden. My research aims to determine the mechanism by which a protein produced by Chlamydia is degraded within the host cell. Specifically, this protein, called TARP, is used by the invading bacterium to hijack host cell machinery and initiate entry of the bacterium into the cell, but this protein gradually disappears during the infection cycle. By studying the degradation mechanism of this protein, we hope to determine why this regulation of TARP is advantageous to Chlamydia trachomatis and how preventing the degradation of TARP impacts the ability of Chlamydia trachomatis to replicate and grow within the host cell. Such findings could pinpoint new targets for antibiotics against Chlamydia trachomatis or could aid in the creation of a mutant bacterial strain to be used for live vaccination of individuals.

I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to the Rose Hills Foundation for funding my research over the summer. This summer has been an incredible opportunity to fully engage with my research and learn exactly what it means to be a scientific researcher. During my final year at UC Berkeley, I felt like I knew what it meant to fully devote oneself to a project, as I spent countless late nights frantically running my experiments as the deadline for my thesis drew closer and closer. While I certainly felt like I spent all of my time in the lab, I was actually quite removed from the experience and very preoccupied with my college courses, which made both my successes and failures feel blunted. During my research over the summer, I was able to dive into a full-time research schedule that focused solely on my independent project, which I certainly felt ready for, but which, upon much reflection, I was lacking many of the skills to run a project day in and day out. At the start of the summer, I had a hard time managing all of the new time I had for experiments, which lead to some notably unprofessional moments where I grossly mistimed my experiments and lost progress because of it. Although these shortcomings were unfortunate, I was able to learn from them, make very valuable progress on my project, and truly experience the ups and downs of all of my successes and failures. As a result of the SURF program and the support of the Rose Hills Foundation, I believe that Iā€™ve become a more mature scientist, a better mentor for the younger members of my lab, and more certain than ever before about my career goal of leading an academic research laboratory.